LONDON - "We are sorry," Rupert Murdoch said in British newspapers on Saturday, as News Corp tried to quell the uproar over a phone-hacking scandal that has shaken the company and claimed its top two newspaper executives. Les Hinton, one of Murdoch's top aides and head of Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, resigned on Friday, as did Rebekah Brooks, head of News Corp's British newspaper arm, News International.
The spotlight now turns to Murdoch's son and presumed successor, James, who took over the European operations of News Corp as the crisis was beginning. He and Murdoch, along with Brooks, face a grilling in Britain's parliament on Tuesday. The apology, which began appearing in national newspapers on Saturday, was headlined, "We are sorry." It said the News of the World, the News Corp-owned tabloid newspaper accused of hacking the phones up to 4,000 people, "was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself."
"We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred. We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected," added the note, signed by Rupert Murdoch. The attempts at conciliation included Murdoch's personal apology on Friday to the parents of a murdered schoolgirl in what appeared to be an admission that the News of the World, then edited by Brooks and overseen by Hinton, had in 2002 hacked into the voicemails of their missing daughter. That allegation reignited a five-year-old scandal that forced Murdoch to close the News of the World, Britain's best-selling Sunday paper, and drop a $12 billion plan to buy full control of highly profitable pay-TV operator BSkyB. It has also broken the the grip that Murdoch, 80, held over British politics for 3 decades as leaders from Margaret Thatcher, through Labour's Tony Blair to current Conservative PM David Cameron sought his support.
SKEPTICISM ON APOLOGY: British parliamentarian John Prescott, asked by the BBC Saturday if Murdoch's apology, changed anything, replied, "Absolutely not. "For him to say I'm sorry -- it was only 24 hours ago in America in the Wall Street Journal that (Murdoch said) they were only minor offences. ... This is a man desperately trying to save his company and ditching everybody else in the process," Prescott said.